American private aerospace firm Firefly Aerospace has secured a US$93.3 million contract from NASA to deliver a suite of 10 science investigations and technology demonstrations to the Moon in 2023.
The delivery, planned for Mare Crisium, a low-lying basin on the Moon’s near side, will investigate a variety of lunar surface conditions and resources to help prepare for human missions to the lunar surface.
The award is part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, in which NASA is securing the service of commercial partners to quickly land science and technology payloads on the lunar surface.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said this is the sixth award for lunar surface delivery under the CLPS initiative, and the first awarded to Firefly Aerospace.
“We’re excited another CLPS provider has won its first task order award. With this initiative, we seek to develop ways for new science and technology development utilizing a service-based model,” Mr Zurbuchen said.
“This allows US vendors to not only demonstrate their ability to safely deliver payloads to our celestial neighbor, but also expand this capability for others who want to take advantage of this cutting edge approach to explore the Moon.”
Firefly Aerospace will be responsible for end-to-end delivery services, including payload integration, launch from Earth, landing on the Moon, and mission operations.
The company will provide the lunar delivery service using its Blue Ghost lander, which was designed and developed at its Cedar Park facility. The facility will house the integration of NASA and any non-NASA payloads, and will also serve as the company’s mission operations center for the 2023 delivery.